With countries, states, and cities beginning to open up, business owners need to determine the safest and smartest way to bring employees back to the office. From immunity passports and contact tracing, to the many concerns about data privacy, the “right” way to return to the office is everywhere. In some cases, a back to basics approach is best – prepare a checklist to ensure that your business doesn’t run into issues that could have been easily avoided. Now is the time to prepare.
When planning return-to-the-office protocol, consider the following four pillars to ensure a smooth (as possible) transition.
Managing emotions and safety may be the hardest of the four pillars. Some individuals are anxious about getting back into the office while others fear the risks despite the fact they are craving a sense of normalcy. The first and most important step to prepare people to come back to the office is to over-communicate and remain completely transparent. Employees should understand the precautions the organization has taken to welcome employees back. Direct the anticipated laundry list of questions to a “return-to-the-office taskforce” or appoint a team member to help organize and address questions and concerns.
Consider a phased employee return which takes into account employee concerns, potential COVID-19 exposure, and commute times and locations. These factors can help inform a rotating schedule that highlights on which days employees will be working from home versus working from the office.
It’s important to encourage employees to practice regional safety measures, while also maintaining employee morale and company culture.
While many offices may be open concept, social distancing protocols must still be adhered to. Be prepared to make physical changes to your floor plans, conference rooms, and office signage to ensure employees can abide by social distancing guidelines. The goal is to create an office environment that is safe – and functional – for all employees. That process should include:
- A thorough office cleaning before doors open. Communicate the cleaning process to employees.
- If you share your office space with other tenants, ensure they are practicing safe and effective social distancing guidelines and that they understand your expectations.
- Ensure office seating is in line with social distancing guidelines, and schedule employees to be in the office accordingly.
- Limit (or eliminate) the use of conference rooms if space doesn’t allow for proper social distancing.
- Equip the office with enough hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, etc. Let employees know what they are responsible for providing (i.e. their own masks).
- Develop traffic flow patterns in your office.
- Establish guidelines for conducting group meetings as well as for how office visitors will be handled.
It’s important to remain mindful that the situation is very fluid and business owners may need to quickly transition back to a fully remote work environment should a surge occur. Ensuring you have a plan in place is not only preventative but will enable your organization to seamlessly transition back to a remote working scenario.
Returning to the office doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning all work from home set-ups. In fact, many workforces will likely consist of a hybrid of office and remote workers. The goal for the use of technology is to ensure employees have what they need to do their jobs effectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of new technologies inside and outside of the workplace. These technologies are supporting businesses (and society at large) to be more resilient in an effort to overcome this crisis. As more companies test new communication platforms to keep teams and customers connected, it’s important to continually reevaluate the tools and service providers employees use to work remotely. Create a list of all service providers, including any new devices, and decide if they are driving business continuity and supporting your workforce.
Building the necessary infrastructure to support a fully remote and digital world while utilizing the latest technology is essential for any business to remain competitive in a post-COVID-19 world.
Once the team is settled, focus on clients. This is where you and your team can play a critical role in helping these businesses transition back to the office as well.
Schedule a review of the current states. Expect and plan for changes. Learn what new challenges they may be facing and what’s in the pipeline.
Use the lessons learned in your own transition to help clients do the same. Consider developing a grab-and-go approach for working from home, and implement it with your customer base, too.
Businesses find themselves on the front lines managing contradicting priorities: to quickly rebound while mitigating risk; to reduce liability while taking care of their people; and to be safe and to help the economy recover. Taking time to prepare will help businesses more readily reopen, keep employees safe, and ensure the right tech and tools are in place to face the new normal.
Matt Richards is the CMO at Datto.